I attended a meeting organised by the Littleport Parish Council last night (Monday) where concerns continued to be raised by parish councillors over ownership and management of the proposed new leisure centre, and by members of the public over delays by the parish council in approving the scheme.
A further meeting, which I will chair, will be held on March 12 when it is hoped this and other issues including arguments over access into the proposed site can also be resolved.
The parish council is concerned the preferred access will impact to heavily on local residents and will lose some green areas. However, Cambridgeshire County Council believes Camel Road with a secondary access via Elmside is the best option.
Council officials have promised to have answers to a series of questions raised not only at Monday night’s meeting but also at an earlier meeting I organised at the Littleport Leisure Centre last Thursday.
The outstanding issues need to be resolved within the next seven weeks if the £34 million scheme is to progress in time for the start of the school year in September 2017.
The scheme will not only see a new secondary school built for Littleport students but also new special needs and primary schools too.
A new ultra-modern eco-friendly leisure centre is also included in the project, which is fully funded and ready to go once agreement is reached over access issues to the school and management of the new leisure facility.
Liam Roberts, Senior Design Manager for the project, warned during last Thursday’s meeting, attended by county council officials, parish councillors and developers that unless agreement can be reached the project could be lost, with the county council looking to invest in other areas instead.
Littleport Parish Councillors are concerned about the use of Camel Road as an access and also about potential issues with the demolition of the existing leisure centre with the site being used for parking. The existing leisure centre will not however be demolished until the new leisure centre is ready to use.
Parish Councillors fear the change of use could breach a deed of covenant made when the land was given to the town by the former landowner. The covenant stipulates the land must be used for leisure purposes or ownership will revert back.
However, it was pointed out that leisure facilities will still be on the site, they will just be slightly relocated and the parking would be for people using the new centre. It was suggested that access to the leisure facility would fall within “ancillary services”, and so comply with the existing covenant.
Parish councillors also wanted answers over ownership of the new leisure centre. Ian Trafford, education officer at Cambs County Council, said the parish council could be given a long-lease on the premises so that the management of the leisure centre would revert to the parish council if the existing leisure centre management ceased at any point in the future. This would safeguard the running of the new leisure centre for the town as a whole, rather than it being run by the County Council for the primary benefit of the schools.
Linking the new schools with the leisure centre will guarantee an income for the facility, which will help ensure it has a long-term future, something currently not enjoyed by the existing leisure centre, which does have financial issues.
Around 40 to 50 members of the public attended Monday night’s meeting to hear a presentation on the scheme and to listen to the debate. Monday night’s meeting agreed the parish council should write to the landowner to seek their views on the relocating of the leisure centre.
This scheme is fully funded with £34 million secured for a new secondary school, primary school and special needs school together with a state of the art new leisure centre for Littleport. We need to quickly resolve the issues over access to the site, management of the leisure centre, and traffic management issues for residents as we cannot afford to lose this scheme. I hope Littleport residents will make clear to all those in positions of influence how much they want this scheme to go ahead and what a positive impact it will have for local residents.